In the US, if you file a civil lawsuit against someone, that person is not legally required to respond until notice of the suit has been personally given to the person, a process known as ‘process serving’. Usually this is just a formality. There are people whose job is to serve the papers and they come to your home or office or other place where you are known to hang out and give you the papers and that’s that. The rules for properly serving the papers vary by state but there are some common general ones.
But Republican congressman Mo Brooks, who was being sued by Democratic congressperson Eric Swalwell for his role in the January 6th insurrection, decided to play an elaborate cat-and-mouse game with the process server to avoid being served.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) reported Sunday that he’d finally been served with a lawsuit filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) back in March after weeks of taunting the Democrat about his team’s inability to track Brooks down and press the papers into his hands.
Swalwell’s suit in federal court accuses Brooks, along with former President Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani of inciting the January 6 riot and breaking laws in the process.
Brooks claimed on Twitter that not only had he been served with the papers, but that the process server allegedly criminally trespassed into his home and “accosted” his wife.
Rep. Brooks gleefully dodged the Swalwell team’s attempts to serve him for weeks, tagging the congressman in tweets teasing his location and mockingly asking why it was so hard for them to track him down.
Here is video taken by a security camera of the moment when the process server drove up to Brooks’s house just after his wife drove into the garage and gave her the papers and then quickly left while being berated by her.
.@ericswalwell’s lying attorney falsely claimed that the process server never entered my house (aka trespassed).
If so, why do I have this video showing the man chasing my wife into my home? pic.twitter.com/JdlgAdia1a
— Mo Brooks (@RepMoBrooks) June 8, 2021
In this case the papers were served on Brooks’s wife, and this can be sufficient.
When an individual party to be served is unavailable for personal service, many jurisdictions allow for substituted service. Substituted service allows the process server to leave service documents with another responsible individual, called a person of suitable age and discretion, such as a cohabiting adult or a teenager. Under the U.S. Federal Rules, substituted service may only be made at the abode or dwelling of the defendant.
Now Brooks is complaining that a crime was committed in the act of his wife being served.
If you know that you are being sued, you can waive the need to have the papers served so as to save everyone the time and effort spent on this process.
The whole process seems a little silly to me. I do not know if this is peculiar to the US or if other countries have similar rules.